Doing and Feeling Art

Two people observe a painting. The first person is knowledgeable about art and knows multifarious details about the painting; who painted it, when and where it was painted, to whom it was sold, where and for how much. They also know which school the artist studied at and what materials and techniques were used when creating the work. The second person knows none of these things; the second person just looks and embraces what the painting makes them feel. 

OK, so I’m a psychotherapist and not an artist, although I have made some ‘art’. I hesitate, because whilst I really got a kick out of putting my ‘art’ together I’m not sure it is art. 

One individual can execute art and the artist may possibly be the only person to consume the work. Thus, possibly facilitating self image rather than positive praise from another. The actual satisfaction of the individuals enhancing drive may occur only during the act of creation. This creation can indeed have a therapeutic effect rather than exhibiting any particular technical merit or aspiring to inspire a viewer.

My thoughts are that art is a process to communicate an opinion, a feeling, or perhaps to generate an alternative understanding or perception of the place a person is presently experiencing. 

“Art can promote thoughts and considerations that may disturb, placate, or stimulate a person. Art is not solely beauty or positive. ”

Art can be idiosyncratically expressive and extremely subjective; it can be intentionally cutting or offensive, soothing, graceful or even bland.

Maslow’s ‘Self Actualisation’ “What a man can be he must be” (Maslow A 1954) and Rogers ‘Fully Functioning Person’ “Internal communication is clear, with feelings and symbols well matched, and fresh terms for new feelings.” (Rogers C.R 1967) are often considered essential positions to have achieved before being creative.

A comprehensive acceptance and knowledge of the self, spontaneity, and cognitive fluidity are transient notions in my opinion. Many of us are stuck in a ‘trudging through life’ type syndrome. The basic drives: to eat, to drink, to sleep, to seek shelter, to mate, to protect (freeze, fight or flight), to belong and to maintain are dominating life features. I am not suggesting that an artist, of any ilk, is in a good place perpetually; there have been plenty of troubled creatives. What I mean is that people who might not consider themselves to be creative can become so if they attain even a fleeting glimpse of being the fully functioning person - innate talent and technique aside.

Humans have other more sophisticated ambitions than many other sentient beings. A sub-section of the belonging drive in humans demands positive regard and the dopamine reward system helps stimulate a need to enhance. Eventually, if an individual has the space in their heads and the time on their hands, creativity can exist for anyone.

Art can make life extraordinary in terms of fully realising, expressing and developing the actualisation of ones authentic self. It transmits people’s desires to not only communicate, but also to beautify, enhance, customise and express albeit from said individual’s unique phenomenological perception.

If it stimulates a feeling, an emotion, a provocation within, then I think it is probably art. 

Article by Shane Lutkin, lead therapist at Emotionalskills.

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